I Thought We Would Have More Time
It was like something whispering at us to hurry, to stop wasting time, and I would like to have danced with you through the back door, out into the garden, down the street, over the line of the horizon. Oh, my dear. I thought we would have more time. — Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries
My heart broke when I first read those words in 1995. I flagged their page in Carol Shields’ extraordinary Stone Diaries with a Post-it because somehow, all those years ago, I knew I’d return to “loving Barker’s” shattering deathbed note over and over again. And I was grateful to find that flag still there this morning when I plucked the book from my library in search of resonance, understanding, comfort, connection… You see, I thought Cai Emmons would have more time, too, and my friendship with her.
Cai and I became friends over three decades ago, but our connections stretch back far longer. We both were among the first classes of women at Yale, back in the 1970s, and our mutual acquaintances crisscross time and space. As recently as last week we discovered we had friends in common dating from childhood. We both spent our young adulthood in the creative vortex of Manhattan. We both plunged into the writing life straight out of college and kept at it through teaching, publishing, collaborating, editing, and supporting each other every way we could. Interviewing Cai on the publication of her recent novels was a genuine delight. As she would say, we were “entangled.”
When we interact meaningfully with someone, maybe in some way we stay connected forever
Just last week, Cai graciously invited me to join her on her blog, to add a few words of my own about the strange realm of death in life, which we both knew was looming for her. After two years, ALS had so weakened Cai’s body that she was planning her Death with Dignity this month. But her writing was as crisp and wise and tender as ever. She signed off, “See you next week,” and like all her friends, I thought she would have a little more time.